I. The institution of Buddhism as we know it would not exist without the people (monks, nuns, laymen and women) who amplify our Buddha nature, maintain the rituals and ceremonies, and teach the dharma, among other things. The spirit of Buddhism, however, shines forth from people who would make no claim to be Buddhist. Mother Theresa and her compassionate care of the sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta is a classic example.
II. A pilgrimage to a Buddhist stupa, a shrine, monastery, or other sacred space gets the pilgrim out of their familiar environment and focused upon the destination of the pilgrimage. By doing so, the subject of the fous itself serves as a reminder and inspiration of the teachings of Buddha.
III. Reliance of monks and nuns and lay sangha is not as intense as it was in ancient India. Our American lifestyle is totally different. If an American is lucky enough to live close to a monastery where the old traditions are still done, where there is a strong lay community supporting the monastery, we get a glimpse of the practices of ancient India. Our modern day lifestyle in this country, however, leaves us with other alternatives: money to support the operation of a monastery, church, priory, or other Buddhist center from the lay community. Books, CDs, DVDs, retreats and other material things are now learning tools for the lay community, as well as pilgrimages to places such as monasteries, stupas, and other sacred sites. Many Americans actually go to India or other countries for a visit or extended stay so they may marinade themselves in the energy of sacred places.
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